The beginning of the Book of Acts shows the fulfilment of the promise of Baptism of the Spirit when a prayer meeting was upgraded to an outpouring of the Spirit. A motley crew of rugged fisherman, a Zealot, a tax collector and many others were faced with an impossible task – spreading the gospel to the entire world. How were they to do that when even among the Jews, so many barriers existed? They barely even spoke the same language! Enter the Holy Spirit. He is the One that would bring people into the church:
For just as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body – though many – are one body, so too is Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit. For in fact the body is not a single member, but many.
(1 Corinthians 12:12-14 NET emphasis supplied)
It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.
(Ephesians 1:13-14 The Message emphasis supplied)
The language barrier was erected by God at Babel (Genesis 11) in order to put a damper on the DIY religion (trust in myself instead of God) that was developing a centre at that site. At Pentecost, however, God reversed that as a living illustration of the unity that He wanted His people to have. Far from a destructive fire, the Holy Spirit’s appearance as a flames was meant to represent the Presence of God (descriptions of God’s presence almost always include fire), a Presence that would fuse different people of various backgrounds, inclination and baggage into the smooth operating Body of Christ.
Humans struggle with change so the process was gradual. At first, the barrier amongst the Jews was demolished. On that day, Peter addressed Jews from all over the Roman Empire and three thousand joined the body. Talk about exponential growth! The small movement began to grow daily despite the efforts of the authorities to squash it. Those poor religious leaders thought they’d get rid of Jesus but suddenly, hundreds were proclaiming Him, even healing and teaching in the Temples courts itself!
The Body of Christ was not be exclusively Jewish, though, so Peter found himself preaching not only a Gentile but a Roman centurion. Philip baptised not a Gentile eunuch; a double felony by Jewish standards and regulations. The Holy Spirit was on fire but this was only the beginning. Even those with unorthodox theology (they only knew John’s baptism) were included in this breaking down of barriers. The Holy Spirit took a former prodigy of exclusive religion, a Pharisee named Saul and directed him to extend the invitation to the Gentiles.
The Holy Spirit is a facilitator but He is no shortcut. Sin isn’t a software bugging needing a patch, it is a virus that corrupts the operating system so bad that a virus cleaning and system reinstallation are required. Sin is never more dangerous than when it disguises itself as righteousness but presenting itself in the form of religious bigotry. Strife entered the church when Jews found themselves inundated by Gentiles who had precious little time to waste on painful practices like circumcision and ceremonial cleansing. The Holy Spirit didn’t bulldoze His unifying agenda but worked calmly on hearts in the contentious Jerusalem Conference, bringing church members to consensus without even a whiff of a proof text.
Personal differences didn’t magically disappear either such as the sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas on the John Mark debacle. Although they did make up, they never worked together again. Being filled with the Spirit was and is no exemption from being human but He guides us to reconciliation with God and each other.
The baptism of the spirit will do for you, what a phone booth did for Clark Kent, it will change you into a different being. (Rod Parsley)
The book of Acts is incomplete. You have a chapter to write as well. Will you choose to go it alone with a DIY religion or will you accept to get fired up for the Kingdom?
Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you. (Corrie Ten Boom )
photo credit: michaelmueller410 Happy New Year! via photopin (license)